It feels as though my soul has shattered into small insignificant little pieces scattered across the cabin floor. Blood trickles from my bruised nose and lips and my stomach feels as though it is being torn apart, but the numbness in my heart drowns out the pain. Jack does not allow me to say goodbye to my mate, dragging his body away to dispose of it despite my pleas.
“Stay here and watch the kid,” Jack snarls as he moves to close the door.” And don’t even think about leaving. A beating is nothing compared to what ll do to you if you disobey me.”
I blink at him, time slowing down as struggle to register what he says. Jack slams the door shut, a silent sob escaping my throat when I feel pain rip through my belly. Beside me, the mysterious little boy Jack brought seems distraught but upon seeing the tears rolling down my cheeks, he stops his crying to soothe me.
Don’t cry, lady,” the little boy says as he wipes my tears with his small hands. “It’s gonna be okay, okay? My mommy is coming. She promised!”
My wolf whines and whimpers at the loss of her mate but the little boy’s soft voice helps her calm down.
He points to the blood on my chin “Uh-oh! You have red water on your chin!” He cries, lifting his shirt over his head and wiping it away for me. “Does it hurt, lady?”
I fight the urge to burst into tears at his kindness and shake my head at him.
“Thank you,” I say with a sheepish smile and kiss his hand. “1-I’m Vanessa, What is…what is your name? I ask with a forced smile, resting my hand on my belly when I feel a severe cramp ripple down my abdomen.
The little boy seems hesitant to reply but he reluctantly answers, “Kota,” with his thumb in his mouth.
That’s a lovely name,” I murmur, the little boy grinning from ear to ear. “Are you hungry, Kota?” l ask, Kota nodding his head.
He helps me to my feet, pulling me with all his little might and I take him into the kitchen where I was preparing pupusas (Salvadoran dish) before Christian showed up.
Kota stands on a stool to watch me roll a ball of masa (dough) in my hands and then stuff it with a meat and cheese paste I had already prepared. I then dip my fingers in olive oil and press the dough and paste into a flat tortilla shape and begin to cook it ona pan.
“Do you know what pupusas are?” l ask the little boy and he nods gingerly at me.
“Mmmhmm, he says. “My mommy makes them all the time.”
“What’s your mommy’s name?” I ask and he shrugs innocently at me.
“Her name is mommy, he replies. “But sometimes, daddy calls her Ta-Talia.”
My smile widens as I realize I’m speaking to my own nephew and I study his features to memorize them. His nose is just like Talia’s and mine, narrow and a little lifted towards the tip. He has thick lashes shading blue and brown eyes and his toothy grin reminds me a lot of my little sister.
“You have your mommy’s nose,”I tell him, and he smiles happily.
I ignore the pain in my abdomen, slowly coming to terms with what is happening to my
body and focusing on saving Natalia’s pup from Jack. Flipping Kota’s pupusa, I serve it to him on a plate when it’s ready. I notice the welts on the backs of his bare thighs and he winces with every step as he walks to the table. Tears spring to his eyes when he tries to sit down.
“It hurts,” he hiccups as he gently taps his butt.
“Come on”1 saý, leading him to the bathroom so I can inspect his wounds more carefully.
I instruct him to turn around and slowly pull down his underwear and gasp when I see that his cheeks are bruised and swollen in belt-shaped welts. To my relief, there is no broken skin or blood but it seems his underwear is soiled. Christian didn’t bring any clothes for the little boy so I quickly handwash his underwear and wring it out as best I can before blow drying it with a hair dryer.
Searching the cabinets for any medicine and grabbing some ice and paper towels from the kitchen, I lay Kota on my lap and gently rub the ice wrapped in a towel on his welts. He begins to cry in pain but I squeeze his little hand to let him know he’s not alone and he calms down enough for me to work. I find some ointment and rub it on his wounds before scarefully Wrapping his legs with some gauze and bandages and putting on his now clean underderwear.
“You’re going to be okay,” I murmur as finish up, my wolf howling in pain when I feel something trickle down my inner thigh. “I have to pee. Do you mind waiting in the kitchen for me?” lask the little boy.
He walks away and l hover over the toilet for a moment, refusing to shed any tears as I feel the life inside me slip away.I can’t bring myself to look into the toilet bowl, unwilling to see the damage that monster did to me, but I stay there for a few moments to grieve in silence.
My little wolf sobs to herself and it brings me comfort to knowl am not alone in my pain. When I finally find the courage to look into the bowl, all I see is a pool of blood, a bitter rage filling my heart that my one shot at happiness is now quite literally down the toilet.
Changing my clothes and throwing out my soiled panties, I head back into the kitchen to find Kota standing bý the table, too afraid to sit down.
I find a cushion and help Kota into his seat so that his legs don’t hurt as much while he eats. He takes big mouthfuls, chewing happily and nodding in approval of my coking. I haven’t made pupusas in so long, so it’s nice to share them with a little friend.
Despite his wounds, Kota is quite chatty, willing to talk about almost anything if l asked.
“What’s your mommy like? Is she happy?” | ask, Kota nodding between mouthfuls.
“My mommy is a princess. She is the most beautifullest princess in the whole wide world.And Daddy is her prince like Aladdin! Do you like Aladdin?” He asks.
I smile at the little boy, grateful to know that despite everything I did, Natalia is happy and loved.
It’s my favorite,” I reply. “So who is your daddy?”
Kota’s eyes light up with admiration. “He’s a superhero!”
“Oh,”I laugh. “And what does he do that makes him a superhero?”
“My daddy is a wolf and he fights bad guys and he loves my mommy and Egg-ness and
Nonna and me!” He cries excitedly.
“Are they all your family?”I ask, Kota nodding proudly.
“Zane is my daddy,” he says, tapping his thumb to his forehead. “And then there’s my mommy,” he adds, tapping his thumb to his chin.
“What is that?” I ask, mimicking his tapping.
“Oh, it’s called A-L- meno-S. Eggness is dead, he shrugs, my eyes widening in shock before he continues, “She talks with her hands. Daddy taught me” he replies, tapping his thumb again on his forehead. He suddenly begins to pout with sadness and his large eyes fll with tears. I miss Eggness, and Nonna and Mommy and Daddy. Can Igo home now?
My heart breaks with his distress and I pull him into my lap, wrapping my arms around his back to hold him tightly.
“I’ m gonna get you home to your mommy,” I whisper, “I promise.”
Still holding him, I get up and carry Kota to the living room, curling up on the couch with him. In his exhausted state, Kota immediately falls asleep on my lap as I comb his hair with my fingers. A bitter hatred fills my heart as the cramps in my belly continue, the potential to have my own little Kota in my arms now gone.
Angry tears spill onto my cheeks as I realize I’ve been robbed of my happiness by my own actions. Had I never taken Christian from Natalia, perhaps Moon Goddess would have spared my mate and my pup.
The thought of Derek fills me with numbness, and my wolf begins to howl a song of loneliness and misery. We hadn’t been mates very long but I know he would have been gentle.
He refused to mate with me, wanting to do things differently, slowly, and when we were both free to love each other.
I “ll never know now what it feels like to have his skin pressed against mine, to have his lips worship my body, to have my soul tied to his. I”ll never know… and that angers me.
I am going to make Christian pay for what he did to me and Natalia, I snarl, my wolf’s cries turning to violent growls of agreement. Even if it kills me.
As I plot my revenge, Kota begins to stir and he suddenly sits up and stares at me for a moment. I remain still, unsure what to make of his silent gaze. His lips suddenly turn up into a smile and he points at my head.
“Where is your crown, Nanessa?” He asks, pointing to the top of my head. I don’t know how to respond but he doesn’t seem to mind, placing his little hand on my belly. “Don’t be sad. The pretty lady says there’sa dragon who needs you.”
I raise an eyebrow at the little boy. “What pretty lady?”
“I’m tired,” the little boy yawns, curling up into a ball on my lap again. “Bye bye.”
He’s lightly snoring before l even have time to proces what he said to me but I don’t dwell on it too long, chalking up his words to his sleepiness. Instead, I pull out my phone and call the only person I know who might be willing to help Natalia get her pup back.
Come on, Zane, pick up the phone! Isnap anxiously as I call my mate for the 20th time with no luck, his voicemail box quickly filling up with my messages of desperation.
“Zane, it’s me again. Please! Answer the f*g phone! Christian took Kota! He took our baby! For fk sake, answer the phone!”I cry into the phone, Rionna tapping on my shoulder to calm me down as we enter the airport.
“He’s likely in the field, sweetie. Soldiers don’t take their phones into the battlefield.
They are a distraction or could get them caught if they’re on a mission” she explains. “Just
relax. He’ll call as soon as he can. Let’s just get to Silver Crest and bring back our little boy.
I nod, forcing back my tears and making sure I have everything I need to travel. Celina
was kind enough to teleport us to Maine but she could only take us to a place she has traveled to
herself. As a kid, she had gone to the tip of the state for her first shift. Unfortunately, Silver Crest is located in the South near the shoreline.
Christian did not expect us until morning, so we would have the element of surprise to
give us the advantage.
As we walk toward the 1SA agents, Jordan’s phone begins to ring
“Hello?” He asks, his eyebrows raising when a familiar voice answers on the other side.
“Vanessa?” He puts the phone on speaker for all of us to hear.
“Jordan, h-have you found Natalia?” She whispers into the phone.
I haven’t heard my sister’s voice in over four years and just the sound of it makes my blood boil with anger.
I snatch the phone from Jordan and snarl into the phone. “Do you have my baby?” I growl,
Vanessa replying with a small yes. “If you hurt him, I will hunt you down and-“
“Just shut up and listen for a minute, please!” she warns in a hushed tone. “I don’t have time for your mental breakdown right now!” Vanessa mutters, my lips pursing with disgust, “Kota is for the most part, fine. I fed him
and changed him as best I could. He’s sleeping on my lap now and I’ve done everything I can on his legs-“
“His legs?” l ask, my heart sinking to the pit of my stomach. “What’s wrong with his legs?
“I don’t know. Christian brought him in like this but l assume he hit him with a belt,” Vanessa explains. “His butt and legs are bruised and covered in welts. He can’t even sit properly without crying. I’ve put ice on them to bring down the swelling and wrapped his legs in some ointments l found in the bathroom.
“Can I see?” I plead, pulling the phone away from my ear to look at the screen.
Vanessa switches to facetime and pans the camera to her lap where I see Kota curled up beside her, his body naked except for a pair of underwear and the gauze wrapped around his legs. My eyes fill with tears at the horrible sight. I have never spanked Kota in his life, much less used a belt for discipline.
“He’s going to be okay. With any luck, he wont remember,Vanessa says with an awkward laugh.
She flips the camerato herself and I audibly gasp as I look at my sister for the first time in years.
Vanessa is much thinner than I remember, her cheeks hollow with bags clinging to her under her eyes. There is dried blood on her nose and lips and there are a number of bruises still healing all over her face.
She grows self-conscious about my silence and quickly wipes the blood on her lips and lets her hair fall over her face to hide the bruises.
C-Christian is out at the moment, but he’ll be back any minute, she says after clearing her throat. “We don’t have a lot of time to figure things out”.
“Wait… You’re going to help me?” l ask, growing suspicious that this may all be a trap
set-up by christian. How do l even know I can trust you? “Because right now I m your only hope!
Vanessa snaps, tears spilling onto her cheeks.” Christian wants you and Kota to be his family again. He always has.” Her voice suddenly grows small and there’s a tremor in her lip as she talks. never meant anything to him,” she says quietly.
“And never will. I know it doesn’t matter to you much now, but I am sorry.” She whispers. “lam very sorry. – She suddenly gasps and shoves the phone between the sofa cushions, the screen turning black but the sound barely audible.
Y-you’re back,” Vanessa stutters, fear hanging in every word. I hold my breath as I strain to hear the heavy footsteps stomping towards Vanessa, silently counting each one as they approach.
I fed him and put him to bed like you told me to,” Vanessa whimpers. “Just let him sleep. He’sscared. “And the baby?” Christian asks.
All I hear is a whimper and a laugh of satisfaction. “Good, Christian replies. “I have the divorce papers for you to sign. I want them Signed and I want you gone by morning, “But what about Kota?” Vanessa asks.”
He’s alone and scared. You can’t leave him here. “Tm not Christian replies. “My mate comes home in the morning. She’ll take care of him from now on,”
“I-I see,” Vanessa says quietly. “Well, just give me the papers now. I can sign them. “You’re not going to beg for me to give you a second chance?” he asks cynically.
“Why beg?” Vanessa laughs dryly. “You already took everything from me.”
“Aww, poor little Nessa,” Christian laughs. All alone in thé world. No sister, No mate. No baby. How tragic. Perhaps now you know what felt when you took Natalia from me,” he sneers.
“Sign those papers and give me the kid”. “No Jack, he’s sleeping.” Vanessa refuses, the panic obvious in her voice. “Did I ask?” Jack snarls. There’s a long pause and for a moment, I fear the call may have cut off.
“I just thought you might prefer someone else take care of him until his mother gets here. That way he won’t bother you and he can just rest until his legs heal,” Vanessa suggests. “He’ll be cranky when he wakes up.
Kids are always Cranky when you wake them from a nap. I can watch him and leave at daybreak.” Jack mutters inaudibly and grunts his approval.
“Can you bring him some clothes?” Vanessa asks. “He only has his underwear”.
“Anything else?” Jack grunts in annoyance. Some blankets for him to sleep more comfortably. It gets cold here at night,” Vanessa adds. The sound of footsteps echoes in the background of the phone call, and I hear Vanessa count to herself quietly before finally letting out a big breath.
There is more shuffling before Vanessa’s face comes into view. “Kota and I will be at the old cabin,” Vanessa explains in hushed tones.
“Please hurry. Jacks in control and I don’t think I will be able to hold him off for long”. “Nessa, what did he mean about a baby?” asked, a look of sorrow washing over Vanessa’s eyes. “Please hurry,” she whispers before hanging up the phone.